The arrival of ride-sharing business Uber into Canberra could be bumpy, as the city's taxi industry await news of its likely competitor and a government review into existing operations.
The ACT government launched a study of customer service, competition and regulation into the existing taxi network on Wednesday, as Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed the smartphone application-based business had sought meetings with government officials.
The "innovation review" will consider current regulation and market conditions, as well as how the use of better technology could improve transport customer service and pricing from existing and emerging businesses in Canberra.
An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the company would watch the resulting debate as it considered when to enter the market.
Established taxi networks have resisted Uber's arrival and unregulated operations in other Australian cities in the past 18 months, disadvantaging existing businesses with expensive licenses.
The company already has more than 160,000 drivers in the United States and is operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Uber, valued at more than $US40 billion, has a smartphone application that allows users to book taxis and limousines. It also gives any motorist - not just licensed taxi or hire-car drivers - the ability to charge for providing transport with minimal overhead costs.
Some aspects of Uber's services have attracted the attention of regulators in New South Wales and Victoria and some partner drivers have received fines in Australia.
Part of the ACT review will consider taxi pricing, including surcharges on electronic payments and other surcharges applied nationally.
There are 378 taxi licenses issued in Canberra and 327 taxis active on the network.
"Our key priorities are better transport for Canberrans but also a better deal for drivers and we are very keen to work with the industry and indeed with new players," Mr Barr said.
"Clearly our regulatory framework now is a 20th-century model that suited taxi networks as they were constructed in that era. Technology has changed and you are seeing the industry innovate ahead of the regulatory environment."
Mr Barr denied the review would spark anger from the taxi industry, saying operators would welcome an even playing field in areas including rules on licensing, safety and third-party insurance.
Other jurisdictions have struggled to regulate the popular application's business in the face of consumer support.
Minister assisting the Chief Minister on transport reform, Shane Rattenbury, said the government would consider working with organisations including the Commonwealth communications and IT research institute NICTA to provide better out-of-hours public transport through smarter use of buses and taxis.
Uber spokeswoman Katie Curran said the company would watch the process closely and consider whether to launch in Canberra.
Uber had 1100 partner drivers signing up each month in Australia, she said, with "millions" of rides having already taken place.
"We welcome the review being announced today by the ACT government," she said.
"Policy makers around Australia, and the world, are recognising the value of technological advances in the transport sector and the benefits of ride-sharing in particular.
"We are confident they will make their decisions based on the interests of consumers and not protecting incumbent industries from competition."
Canberra Taxi Industry Association executive director Tony Bryce would not be drawn on Uber's arrival or the threat it posed to existing business.
"We will participate in the review and work with government but at this stage there isn't very much we can say, as I am yet to see the terms of reference or find out how it will work," Mr Bryce said.
"I am cautious about [Uber] entering the market. At this stage, as I understand it, they are illegal and I guess maybe that's the reason for this review."
Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe warned the government against trying "to restrict the inevitable development and implementation of technology in the industry."
"The government also needs to ensure there is equality of treatment for all operators and that the value and past investment in taxi plates is considered," Mr Coe said.
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